Patterns of Global Terrorism 1997 - Egypt

Reversing a trend since 1995 of decreasing death tolls, the number of fatalities from terrorist incidents in Egypt rose in 1997 due to a heightened level of attacks during the latter half of the year by al-Gama'at. The group claimed responsibility for a brutal attack at a pharaonic temple site in Luxor on 17 November that killed 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians – the most lethal attack by the group. The six al-Gama'at perpetrators were killed in a shootout by police during their escape effort. Al-Gama'at claimed it intended to take hostages in the attack in exchange for the release of Shaykh Umar Abd al-Rahman, serving a life prison term in the United States after being convicted in 1995 for several terrorist conspiracies. The claim was belied, however, by surviving eyewitnesses who reported the perpetrators took their time to execute systematically victims trapped inside the temple.

The group also continued to launch attacks against police, police informants, and Coptic Christians in southern Egypt.

Foreign tourists also were attacked in September by two Egyptian gunmen who professed support for the Egyptian al-Jihad but who were not found to be linked to an established group. Nine Germans and their Egyptian busdriver were killed in the attack outside the National Museum in Cairo. One of the gunmen was an escaped mental hospital inmate who previously had killed four foreign nationals, including a US citizen, in an attack at a restaurant in the Semiramis Intercontinental hotel in Cairo in October 1993.

Following the attack in Luxor, Egyptian officials intensified security at tourist sites in Cairo and southern Egypt. Nevertheless, the attack and subsequent decline in tourism caused severe economic losses to the country. As part of its effort to thwart extremists, the Egyptian Government also published on the Internet's Worldwide Web a list of names and photographs of 14 Egyptians sought for their suspected role in terrorist activities by al-Gama'at and the smaller Egyptian al-Jihad/Vanguards of Conquest. All of the individuals are believed to be living in various countries outside Egypt. External leaders of al-Gama'at and al-Jihad publicly rejected a call for a cease-fire in July by leaders of the two groups imprisoned in Cairo and vowed to continue their attacks against the Egyptian Government.


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